By Lucy Ashton
A neonatal unit which cares for some of sickest babies in Scotland has achieved Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative status.
The unit at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley achieved the Baby Friendly Stage 3 Accreditation for its care of the most vulnerable babies and their families.
The Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) supports parents to have close and loving relationships with their pre-term or sick baby by enabling them to touch, talk and care for their babies as well as supporting skin to skin contact and responsive feeding.
It values parents as partners in care, with 24-hour access to their babies and aims for parents to be seen as the primary care givers. This has led to the unit’s clinical staff providing specialised care, while acting as teachers and supporters to parents as they learn to care for their baby.
Staff work with parents to help babies to receive breast milk and to breastfeed when possible. This includes discussing with parents the value of breast milk for premature and sick babies’ current and future health as well as development. All parents within the unit are supported in their preferred choice of feeding.
Acting chief nurse for Women’s and Children, Tricia Friel said: “The staff at the unit are delighted to be recognised by Unicef in this way.
“Each year in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, around one in 10 babies are admitted to neonatal units, having been born sick or premature. These babies are very vulnerable and frequently face serious challenges to their health and development.
“The parent-child relationship and breast milk feeding are vitally important to give these babies the best possible start in life.
“Staff have always delivered specialised care to the children, however, we now put the parents at the centre of care for their child which is hugely beneficial to the whole family. The benefits of this early closeness goes way beyond a baby’s stay on the neonatal unit.
“Our aim is to have a culture which supports parents to be primary care givers and nurture them in their role as parents within the neonatal unit. We have had great feedback from families saying they feel much more confident caring for their baby both in the neonatal unit and when discharged home.
“This culture change has been embraced by every member of the team and the unit is extremely proud to achieve this award.”